No to Cola and yes to ICJ!

The COLA article by Geovannie Bracket which appeared in the Amandala merits a reply because of its absurdities and contradictions.  The Declaration presented by “Citizens Organized for Liberty Through Action,” seems to be their position paper on why Belize should not go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle the Guatemalan Claim.

COLA should read Guatemala’s Claim to Territory of Belize Chronology of Events 1859 to 2008.  This booklet is available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belmopan.  Mr. Bracket would learn that it was Guatemala and Britain in 1859 that set out the borders between Guatemala and the British Settlement (later named British Honduras, then in 1973 named Belize).  This border Treaty was thrown out by Guatemala a few years after and Guatemala is still not satisfied with the Agreement.

Even before the United Nations was formed, Guatemala has been unsatisfied with the Border.  Britain and Guatemala have spent millions of dollars in trying to settle this Dispute using diplomatic channels, mediation and negotiations.  Belize also attended these negotiations since the year 1962 (50 years ago) including the years from 1975 to 1981 when the Belize Government spent more millions in getting the United Nations to support us for Independence from Britain.

But even though the UN voted overwhelmingly for Belizean Independence, Guatemala persisted and the UN admonished Britain and Guatemala to settle their differences over Belize.  After the failed attempt with the Heads of Agreement signed by Britain, Guatemala and George Price in 1981, Mr. Nicholas Ridley of Britain’s Foreign Affairs came here and told us “Belize now inherits the Anglo- Guatemalan Dispute.”

Negotiations continued for the next twenty five years at diplomatic levels and with facilitators Shridath Ramphal and Paul Reickler under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS).  Belize’s chief negotiator Mr. Assad Shoman (who was successful at the United Nations with the UN vote for Belize) threw in the towel in October 2007 and recommended that the Guatemalan Claim has to be settled at the International Court of Justice.  The Guatemalan representative also agreed after Britain, Guatemala and Belize had exhausted all diplomatic, political and negotiations channels for 144 years without a solution.

The ICJ is the Court that deals with border problems especially between member states of the UN when all negotiations have failed.  Thus the compromis to go the ICJ was signed by Belize and Guatemala on December 8, 2008.

It is absurd for COLA to state and I quote from Bracket’s article, “We the members of COLA are certainly of the view that this unfounded claim indeed needs to be solved but only through diplomacy, politics and negotiations.”

Does COLA want another one hundred and forty-four years?  This claim started from in 1863. Mr. George Price and our lawyers should have insisted on an ICJ solution between Britain and Guatemala long ago.  Now, do we want to burden our children with this judicial matter? Of course not!  The United Nations which voted for our independence with territory is supportive of our going to the ICJ. If we do not go we will have let down all those nations that voted for our Independence from 1975 to 1980 at the UN.

COLA also says, and I quote, “Internationally recognized experts like Sir Lauterpacht, ex Judge of the ICJ, Schwebel, Rosenne, Orrego-Vicuna as having published and discussed their opinion of our legal chances, we feel that a claim by Guatemala is unfounded, ludicrous and baseless.”

Well if eminent international lawyers, including an ex-judge of the ICJ, have published a book denouncing Guatemala (which can also be obtained at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) why is COLA afraid of going to the ICJ?

Another redundant recommendation made by COLA and absurd at this time, is item 2 in their document, and I quote: . . .“to ask the United Nations to reaffirm the Resolution of 1980 and remind Guatemala to seek a politically based solution to this present differendum . . .  and consider seeking an Advisory Opinion from a neutral mediator (perhaps an expert in international law or a singular ICJ judge) to end further claims by Guatemala against Belize.”  Wow! I thought Bracket did not trust the ICJ judges!

Look readers, COLA has not done its homework!  Doesn’t Bracket know that the ICJ is made up of international lawyers and that the ICJ is the judicial arm of the United Nations?  And that what he is asking the UN to do has already been done when the compromis was signed by Guatemala and Belize in 2008?  Mr. Bracket should read the Charter of the United Nations and find therein the Statute of the International Court of Justice at Chapter VI Article 33- and Article 36.

In simple language, the claim is about a country that signed a Treaty in 1859 that generally described the borders with its neighbor, but which afterward claimed that the border is not correct because of non-compliance by the neighbor regarding an Article in the Treaty. The ICJ will now study the claim and describe with precision by demarcating exactly where the lines should be, especially in the southern region by the mouth of the Sarstoon River, which the Maritime Areas Act of 1992 had addressed and up at the northwestern corner by Aguas Turbias (which was not properly surveyed).  No big thing!  And Belize will be Belize.

With due respect to Mr. G. Bracket and other COLA directors, I think they should request to have an interview with the Hon. Assad Shoman to learn about the Guatemalan Claim and our need to go to the International Court of Justice and discontinue purring fear into our people.

They should also read the Editorial of the Reporter of December 23rd for some enlightenment on the need for us to go to the ICJ to consolidate our sovereignty as an independent nation in Central America.

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